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Extreme Sports and Pizza: My Trip to Vaujany

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There’s something strange about going to a ski resort in summer. There’s no snow. Most of the shops are empty.  And most obviously, you can’t ski. Which I hear is important to the whole “ski resort” thing. Going to a ski resort in summer is like going to Wembley Stadium when there isn’t a game. It all looks impressive, but there’s bugger all going on.

Or so I thought until I went to Vaujany.

Vaujany is a small village in the French Alps. Their economy used to be based on a dam down the mountain. But then someone realised that machines are awesome and don’t moan when overworked or ask for silly things like pay. So now two people man the dam’s technology and everyone else tries to attract holiday-makers.

Of course, most of the holiday-makers come during ski season. And most of the locals leave as soon as it’s over. Walking through Vaujany’s near deserted streets and past its abandoned shop fronts feels like some deadly force has swept through. Yet, the pristine appearance of all the empty buildings, and the quaint look of the village juxtapose with this sparse inhabitancy. Almost like OCD zombies have attacked the populace, then rigorously cleaned and restored the place. The village looks like the setting to an episode of Midsummer Murders, but with so few people it looks like the Midsummer Murderer won. Vaujany in the summer is what would happen if Wes Anderson made a post-apocalyptic movie.

Yet, despite all I’ve said about how barren the place was (three bloody analogies. Someone’s pulling out all the stops), there was still a surprising amount you could do.

First of all, the incredible views will never leave. At least until the Vaujany Tourist Board find a way to Heli-lift the mountains to a colder climate. And the views are incredible. Mountains look so much more powerful and impressive when they aren’t tucked under a snug blanket of snow. Viewing them from my balcony at the top of the village, their immense majesty struck me. Their poetic glory hung in the air, the sublime awe they inspired washing over me … then I went inside and watched Lethal Weapon 2. Which is good too.

But if just staring at stuff isn’t your idea of a fun holiday then there’s plenty else to do. Those mountains can also be used to walk around in. Hell, the views might even be better from out on top of a mountain because, on a clear day, you can see miles and miles of pastoral France. Hiking is probably the main, warm-weather, tourist attraction in Vaujany, with cable cars still running through the summer. Or, if you want something more exciting, there is always the Via Ferretta. This is essentially tying yourself to a series of ropes and then doing a variety of Tomb Raidery/Nathen Drakey/Indiana Jonesy things. Rock climbing up the side of a waterfall, tightrope walking across ravines. Basically being Tom Cruise but with more ropes and less crazy theories about aliens. The Via Ferretta will give you some of the best opportunities to see what the village looks like from halfway up a cliff-face.  Opportunities you won’t ever take because YOU’RE HALFWAY UP A CLIFF-FACE.

The outdoors stuff really is the main appeal of this resort. But there was plenty on offer indoors too. So much I couldn’t even do it all. I didn’t hit the House of Fauna. Mainly because I’m not 80 and there’s a maximum threshold of boredom I’m willing to go through for articles. Nor did I visit the gym because I can lift things up and down anywhere but can only shimmy up mountains in, like, four places. But it is probably worth doing the Leisure Centre’s multi-deal. This allows you to visit the bowling lanes, ice rink, swimming pool and spa once each during the week. Or you could do them all in one day and become some kind of middle-class sporting hero. FYI, balance is more important than pure speed when ice skating. Trust me.

Still, easily the best non-mountain feature was the restaurants. The local steakhouse is nice, and the bakery is great for early morning snacks. Plus, unlike in ski season, you won’t have to take out a mortgage just to look at the food. And if you feel like making your way down to the neighbouring town, their pizzeria does delicious and filling pizzas. Just remember that driving around this area is terrifying because roads follow the shape of the mountains. I.E slow, effortful uphills and terrifying brake-ruining sharp downhills.

There is something strange about going to a ski resort in summer. But the lack of snow only reveals the areas beauty. The emptiness only means there’s no queueing. And not being able to ski? Well, the roads provide more out-of-control cannoning down slopes than you could possibly ask for. And honestly, when you can play action hero up waterfalls, laugh at the fact there’s a House of Fauna and stuff your face with fresh pizza… why would you want to ski?




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